CCD Files Constitutional Challenge to Indiana's Restrictive Ballot Access Laws
March 17, 2022 - On behalf of a coalition of minor political parties, independent candidates and their voter-supporters, CCD today filed a case challenging the constitutionality of Indiana Election Code provisions that restrict access to the ballot for minor parties and independent candidates. The case alleges that Indiana denies voters the right to cast their votes effectively by guaranteeing ballot access to the two major parties -- Republicans and Democrats -- at taxpayer expense while imposing cost-prohibitive requirements on their potential competitors.
"Indiana's ballot access laws are among the most restrictive in the nation," said CCD founder and general counsel Oliver Hall. "No new minor party or independent candidate for statewide office has been able to qualify for Indiana's ballot in more than 20 years -- not since presidential independent Patrick Buchanan did in 2000."
Under Indiana law, major party nominees appear on the ballot automatically once they are selected by means of taxpayer-funded primary elections. Minor parties and statewide independents, by contrast, must submit nomination petitions signed by voters equal in number to 2 percent of the last vote for Secretary of State -- or 44,935 signatures in 2022. Independents for non-statewide offices must submit petitions signed by voters equal in number to two percent of the last vote for Secretary of State in their district.
But since there's no way to validate voters' signatures when they sign nomination petitions, minor parties and independents must collect approximately 50 percent more than the requirement, to ensure they have enough valid signatures. That means a statewide petition must have approximately 67,000 signatures to ensure a likelihood of success.
According to the Complaint, Indiana has not updated or improved the procedures by which minor parties and independents must demonstrate the requisite voter support in the 133 years since Indiana first began regulating ballot access: they still must collect signatures in person, by hand, on paper nomination petitions. This process is inherently laborious, time-consuming and, as the number of signatures required has increased, the cost of completing a statewide petition drive has skyrocketed.
"We intend to prove that statewide petition drives in Indiana now cost $465,000 - $565,000," Hall said. "That violates landmark Supreme Court decisions holding that states may not condition participation in their electoral processes on the ability of voters, candidates or parties to pay."
The Plaintiffs in the case are the Indiana Green Party, the Libertarian Party of Indiana, John Shearer, George Wolfe, David Wetterer, A.B. Brand, Evan McMahon, Mark Rutherford, Andrew Horning, Ken Tucker and Adam Muehlhausen.
The Plaintiffs assert claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments for the violation of their right to cast their votes effectively, to speak and associate for political purposes, and to the equal protection of law. They seek a judgment declaring Indiana's statutory scheme unconstitutional and an injunction prohibiting the Defendant, Indiana Secretary of State Holli Sullivan, from enforcing the challenged provisions.
The case is captioned Indiana Green Party, et al. v. Sullivan, No. 1:2-cv-00518 (SDIN). It was filed in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and has been assigned to Judge James R. Sweeney II.
CCD filed this case pro bono, with Advisory Board members Mark R. Brown and William P. Tedards, Jr. representing the Plaintiffs as co-counsel with Mr. Hall. To support CCD's work, please consider making a contribution. CCD is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and all contributions are tax-deductible.
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